By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJuly 27, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- There was foul play afoot at the Fort Rucker Primary School, and students were working hard to crack the case.
The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratories hosted its final week of the Gains in Education of Mathematics and Science program where students got the chance to test their sleuthing skills with the forensics module July 20.
The forensics module had the students trying to solve a crime by utilizing forensic techniques, such as fingerprinting, testing chemical reactions and taking a closer look by observing objects through a microscope, and for Judah Zaragoza, seventh grade participant, the day's events were right up his alley.
"This morning we got to learn about DNA -- what it is, how it works and how it helps forensic analysts," said the 12-year-old GEMS student. "My favorite part has been fingerprinting. We got to use the fingerprint dust and check for the fingerprints [on a glass]. We also got to check chemical reactions between super glue and a saturated cotton ball."
Zaragoza, who said he wants to be an entomologist, said he found the lessons interesting because these types of experiments are things that he feels is common knowledge when it comes to forensic science, but not something that many get to practice.
"I think it's something that we've all heard of, so it's kind of cool to actually see that it works," he said. "I love science and math -- they're my favorite subjects in school. I also just love to make things and take things apart."
Fellow GEMS student Mia Maund said fingerprinting was also her favorite part of the program because she wants to either be a teacher or forensic analyst when she grows up.
"I love science and I love making things," she said. "I watch a lot of crime shows, and they're always talking about fingerprinting and stuff like that, so I really liked it a lot."
Throughout the program, the students had to work together in order to try to solve the crime using the various techniques they learned, but the lessons weren't just about testing their forensic knowledge, but seeing how well they were able to work as a team.
Liam Edens, GEMS mentor, said the team dynamic is an essential part of the children's lessons that they'll be able to use in any work or social setting.
"Interaction in a team setting just about anywhere is going to help you in any major, regardless of what you're studying," he said. "Working in a team is a real-life application. You're going to have to work in a team in your real life, so you might as well start really early."
Edens, currently studying kinesiology in his senior year at Auburn University, is no stranger to the GEMS program, having mentored with the program many times in years past.
"It's a great experience for not only myself, but for the kids," he said. "Seeing them interact and open up slowly is just a lot of fun. It gives them the chance to do things that they normally aren't able to do in school."
It's also a good opportunity for mentors to learn from the students, he added.
"I'm a pretty firm believer that just because someone is younger than you doesn't mean you can't learn anything from them," he said. "You learn something from each of the kids and you get little tidbits of information from each of the children, and you come back with a multitude of facts."